Mystery of time


Gretchen Rubin

“The days are long, but the years are short.”
― Gretchen RubinThe Happiness Project
I love this quote. It expresses my feelings exactly! My days, though not often stressful, still seem long. I’m tired at the end of them, and I frequently feel that I didn’t accomplish all I’d hoped. In particular, my personal projects lag behind my expectations.
And yet! The weeks, months, and years fly by. Everyone notices. “I can’t believe it’s already May,” I hear, as I walk about the hospital. The year is already scheduled out. I’m working on September’s call calendar for the primary care clinic. We already know dates for vacation through December. Soon Rob and I will be discussing our work availability for fall months. Where does it go? And how does it go so quickly?
I remember my dad saying to me that time seems to speed up as we get older. Well, he was right, and I suppose most people recognize that reality. There’s some magical element to time. For little ones, it does move slowly. Excruciatingly slowly. I’m long past that stage. The years are short.
Well, there’s no changing it. I suppose the only thing to do is accept, and be ever-more thoughtful about how I spend my long days, and my short years. This is one of those realities that everyone knows, even acknowledges, yet few address. I think most of us just move through life. I have moments of great clarity. And then I get lost again, caught up in the day-to-day.
Here’s to the long days. May they be productive for us all! And here’s to the short years, which we cannot lengthen. May they be memorable! And thank you, Gretchen, for stating so succinctly, so profoundly, what we all know at heart:
“The days are long, but the years are short.”
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What’s new (new to me)

So here’s a roundup of fun new things/blogs/ideas I’ve run across…most of these are new to me, I’m sure, rather than the world at large. But just in case you’re moving at my pace of discovery, you might find these interesting:

Blogs:  These are a few I’ve found recently that I’m enjoying: Malou Prestado writes Going Dutch, a lovely blog on the adventure of merging cultures and living in Europe. She’s quite the photographer!  Domestic Diva MD is an often hilarious and irreverent source for tasty recipes, each one with a story attached, and the stories are as tantalizing as the recipes.

The Worrywort’s Guide is a blog that I can really identify with. A lot of this author’s writing sounds like me, only she’s funnier and far more clever! Photobotos is a new photo blog I’ve subscribed to, and each morning I have a stunning or funny or amazing image to view, complete with story behind the shot and technical details from the photographer. The site also provides  product reviews, useful if you’re in need of photo tech info. Check it out!

Cara Long Writes is a site that a friend of mine is doing, and it highlights her blossoming career as a children’s book author, and adventures as a mom of nine (9!).

General Info: In case you’re thinking of connecting with fellow bloggers for inspiration, encouragement, information, or tech tips, here’s a site for locating blog conferences throughout the remainder of the year. You can check out the various options and register for anything of interest here.

Here’s an article about cool sites for free items or bartered services. I was familiar with some of these options, but had not heard of others. I’m not much into looking for free things, but I am still cleaning out, little by little, and it’s good to have options for clearing out larger items that I can’t haul to Salvation Army in my vehicle. And I love the idea of bartering services, that’s something that could be hugely useful. Check out the options here.

Tech: If you use Safari as your browser, there are a lot of great tips for making it a more useful experience here. And finally, if you have an Android or Apple iOS smartphone/device, check out this free app for better photo editing: Adobe Photoshop Express; see here for more information.

Overbuyer or underbuyer?

I’ve had a different pace this week. After sitting in training sessions all day, by dinner, I’m done. Not much creativity left, and not much energy either. Fortunately, I brought some books with me so I could shift into a different gear and relax in the evenings.

My book strategy is two-pronged. I have downloaded digital selections, and a couple of printed books, to cover those times when I can’t have my digital source open…part of flight time, or when my battery is low. Choosing to download a book rather than buy a printed copy is somewhat random for me yet. But I think I’ll continue to find that it’s good to have multiple options.

I have about a dozen books in progress at the moment, everything from technical how-to manuals to more philosophical works, and then one that’s easy reading, on a seemingly simple subject. But I’m finding it surprisingly thought provoking. I’m reading The Happiness Project, which I’ve referenced in earlier posts. The author, Gretchen Rubin, says she was happy. But she believed she could have more happiness, and she worked through a variety of month-long experiments to test her theory that changing certain behaviors and attitudes could add up to an increase in satisfaction with life and generate more happiness for herself and those around her.

Gretchen set goals for a year long project, and each month she tackled a different aspect of living, with strategies to improve behavior, habits, and mindset. I’ve picked up some tips, and about half-way through the book, have plans for my own project. But most of my ah-ha’s have more to do with method than with concept.

One month Gretchen focused on her relationship with money, and some of her insight resonated with me. She recognized that some people are overbuyers…buying multiples of things, buying gifts to have on hand for future recipients, buying well in advance of need. Underbuyers are the opposite, of course. Underbuyers buy in small quantities, and tend to have more of a “just in time” mentality. There are pros and cons, whichever camp you find yourself sitting in.

Imagine my surprise to recognize I’m an underbuyer. Being an underbuyer is not the same thing as being frugal. It means you are comfortable having a four pack of toilet paper in the cupboard, rather than the Costco size package of toilet paper rolls. It means you buy gifts when they are due, and for a specific recipient, rather than stocking items to have on hand. It means that you buy when you need, rather than out of impulse. At least this is my definition, culled from Rubin’s discussion.

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, if your buying style is creating issues…storage overflow, or running out of necessities, you might want to determine which style is more you, and then adjust choices that are tripping you up. The point is not that one style is better than the other. It is about making your life work and being more efficient in how you buy. I also think this is an area of money management that is less about how much you spend, more about how you spend. Example: you may actually spend more for less product by buying at the last minute, or in smaller quantities, rather than buying in bulk, for a better price per unit. Or you may create distress for yourself or family members by running out of some necessity before you restock. Conversely, you may get a great deal on food items at a grocery sale, but if the items go out of date before you use them, did you really save money? Or do you find yourself paying for storage space to store all the great deals you’ve picked up?

I immediately recognized overbuyers in my family. There are benefits of being an overbuyer, the most obvious one being that you don’t run out. You are your own supply closet. And overbuyers tend to have more options available at their fingertips without having to shop for specific items. I seldom have all the ingredients of a recipe on hand without planning ahead. But overbuying also feeds clutter and waste.

The important insight for me is to think about habits from multiple perspectives. This question initially seems to be about money, but it is really about management of resources: time, space, and family needs, as well as money. No part of life is one-dimensional, and this is no exception.

The other realization I had is that if you are efficiently organized, either habit can work for you. Overbuyers who efficiently use their stock of food or other supplies won’t lose money tossing out dated product, and will manage their storage space to advantage. Organized underbuyers won’t run out because they have a list of what they need to replace.

If this sounds like too much thought on a subject that should be simple, just think about the extreme consequences of these behaviors. Underbuyers tend to cut things close, to wait till the last minute. Overbuyers probably have it, but may never find it. And in the most extreme cases of overbuying, you can see seeds of OCD behaviors that lead to traps like hoarding. That’s an extreme, but a scary extreme to consider.

So, I’m going to do some thinking about how I buy, and how those choices are impacting other aspects of my life. Maybe I can find the happy middle ground, neither running out of toilet paper at an inopportune time, nor needing to build on a wing to store my bulk buys.

Use what you’re given

I saw this recently and liked the thought…

Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater.

If you give her sperm, she’ll give you a baby.
If you give her a house, she’ll give you a home.
If you give her groceries, she’ll give you a meal.
If you give her a smile, she’ll give you her heart.

Hide and Seek

I’m in gathering mode. I’m learning. What a challenge it is to reinvent yourself! I have a stack of books by my bed, I have more downloaded on my Kindle, and I’m finding new resources online through blogs and websites. Information overload! All this reading makes it hard to produce. One of the cardinal rules of writing is to write. Stay with it. Once again, I find that my blog has been on the back burner.

I like to think I’m a multi-tasker extraordinaire, but maybe I’m not…I tend to get a bit sidetracked by what I’m reading, get lost in the maze of discovery. I’m researching the process of writing a book here and here; reading about life mapping here and creating passion in life here; learning more about blogging and the digital world, here; and looking for mentors and events to broaden my horizon here. I’ve also picked up a couple of books that are (deceptively) simple “how tos” for increasing happiness here and getting along with others, here. More about these later.

I’m learning new programs, taking my conversion to Apple to the next level by working through the Pages and Numbers programs.

And I’m working relief for PeaceHealth clinics and taking on some project work on a contract basis for another organization. I feel a bit like I’m back in college, having a day job, and coming home to start a mental second shift. I’ve been ramping up to this for a while, but transitioning away from a full-time position in January has upped the stakes. I have a bit more freedom to concentrate on my own projects, but also more risk. I have to admit, I miss the regular check already, although I love not having to think about my leave balance when I make plans to travel.

All this makes me wonder…what’s really next? I committed to this path last summer…well, at least I committed to leaving full-time work at the new year. Hard to know where all of this will lead. I get conflicting messages. There’s the belief that if you don’t script out your life (life mapping) you’re in danger of wandering aimlessly without focus or clearly defined purpose. Some believe that your passion and your career work should be intertwined. Some believe that your passion does not necessarily reflect your skills…that your skills and your gift are not the same. I read something a few days ago that said that we don’t have to search for our passions, they find us. Just like we don’t have to work to know if we like a certain color or taste or music. We just know. That seems right, and yet, I don’t know. What I’ve learned is that the thing I’ve had the most passion for in my life, mothering, is now largely completed, at least in a day-to-day, hands on way. So while I’ll always be a mom, and I’ll continue to find joy and fulfillment in my evolving role as a mother, that is not going to be my life’s work at this stage.

Then the questions begin. I’ve always loved to bake. Maybe I have the seeds of a restaurateur in me. Or maybe I’m destined to help others find their own path, as soon as I’ve figured out the formula for myself. Or maybe I’ll find a way to become a writer and get paid for it. That’s the really sticky part. I’m looking for something I love, something I feel passion to do. And I need it to feed me…emotionally, professionally, economically. Sounds like a tall order. And yet, these stories are everywhere: people magically falling into something they love to do every day, and getting paid to do it.

Well, I’m sure this will continue to be a theme for a while. So far I have more questions than answers, and the gathering phase is only beginning. I think of all the clichés: if it’s worth having, it’s worth waiting for; it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be worth it; never, never, never, never, never give up.

So off to work, then home to do some more work. Reading. Searching. Reinventing. Really, how can we expect kids just out of high school to know what they want to be? It’s a challenge at any age, unless you happen to be one of those blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) individuals who are so defined by their particular talent that they are compelled to be a painter, musician, author. I need a new category. Guess I’ll have to invent it myself, I’m not finding my particular passion in the standard line up.

Intentional living

I’m thinking a lot about sustainability lately. What do I currently do, and what will I begin, that is sustainable? Not that everything in life should be sustained. Some things have a defined season, a limited time to be useful or even possible. But I’m growing more thoughtful about the habits and commitments I allow to take root in my life. Because, sometimes, even without intention, behaviors cling. Isn’t it funny how difficult it is to foster habits you want to acquire and nurture (think working out) and how easily you fall into habits that can sap your time and give little in return (endless internet browsing or channel surfing). Well, I’ve never had too much difficulty with TV, and can happily report that I rarely miss it since we cut the cable cord last summer.

But the internet…it just sucks me in. Sometimes I find things that are helpful, useful, inspirational. And sometimes I just drift among the sites that fascinate me. Pinterest, Houzz, Twitter, blogs…..where was I?

Yes, yes, intentional living. Well, to be more grounded in habits I want to foster in myself and encourage in others, I’m beginning a couple of journals…private, but intended to foster values that are important to me. First, I am beginning a gratitude journal. Hardly a new concept, and I think I already have a mindset of gratitude. But writing it down will make it clearer, and I hope will give visible proof that I am aware of the many good things and people that touch my life.

Second, I’m beginning a journal of kindness. I want to mark kindness and generosity from me to others, and from others to me. Why? Not to pat myself on the back, but to reinforce for myself that there is no limit to the ways we can spread thoughtfulness and a positive spirit. I hope by noting the acts and words of others toward me that I will be more aware of the ways people reach out to me.

I don’t want either of these journals/lists to be exhaustive. That would be exhausting, and would probably result in another couple of new year’s resolutions that would soon be abandoned. The point is to increase awareness, and I think noting even a few items I’m grateful for each day, or a few acts of kindness, will be enough to keep these things in the forefront of my thoughts.

A kindness journal, a gratitude journal…I think I can sustain these habits. I have a feeling adding these two brief to-dos to my daily routine will be inspiring and worth doing. And who knows what I’ll discover in the process?!

Happy New Year!

Yesterday I heard it repeatedly: “Happy New Year!” We’re all getting ready for the annual big crossover. A new year, filled with potential because the days are blanks, so far. We can’t believe 2011 has already come and gone…the months fly by. How is it possible?! I say these things, hear them all around me from others. Not everyone celebrates the same holidays. But everyone is subject to the calendar. The change of year impacts the whole planet.

So beginning tomorrow, I’ll start reminding myself to date my documents with “2012.” I’ll roll over the pages in my calendar and look ahead to the commitments already pencilled in for January. And I’ll be thinking of the changes I want to make this year. New Year’s resolutions are right up my alley. A list maker by nature, and someone who’s always inspired by challenge, it’s easy for me to come up with a plethora of items: “Next year…”

But here’s a twist on the whole resolution thing. What if resolutions were not just about making myself better? What if I use some of the space on my resolution list to include others? I do that already in a non-specific way. But this is a challenge to make it official.

Here’s some inspiration for you, if you’d like to make your resolutions more outwardly focused. Visit Resolution Twelve, a blog that posts and celebrates reaching out to others…groups, individuals, causes, you name it. This blog is not a charity or service that connects volunteers with needs. It is simply a vehicle for sharing goals for the coming year.

Obviously, you don’t have to post your outward-focused plan on this site to make it official or effective. But I think the value in posting somewhere, even on a list that lives at your desk or beside your kitchen sink, is accountability. Statistics say that most new year’s resolutions only last a few weeks. Wouldn’t it be nice if goals to reach out lasted longer? Maybe even changed your life?

Tomorrow I’ll be serving black-eyed peas with our dinner. Southern tradition says these peas bring good luck when you eat them on new year’s day. Not sure about that, but it’s an easy nod to heritage to serve a dish at dinner. As for that other tradition of sharing resolutions…well, there are some that are standard. Watch my weight. Be more productive. Be more organized. Listen more effectively. This year I’ll be adding a few other items, based on some of the suggestions from Resolution Twelve. I doubt that anything I do will make headlines or impact the world. But that’s not the point. The point is to make a difference, and that I can certainly do.

And the award goes to…

20111002-183918.jpg I recently received a “Versatile Blogger Award,” (well, if you count September 20 as recent) and though I thanked my fellow blogger, Jeff, for this honor at that time, I’m only just now getting around to fulfilling the requirements that come with the award. I know, bad form on my part! But I tend to agonize a bit over this type of thing, and I put this off feeling that I haven’t had time to do this post justice. But enough delay, and on with the passing of the award!

First, thank you to Jeff who writes about his faith and posts a daily Bible study. I’m awed that he is able to be so consistent with his posts. And these are not short and sweet, but well thought out, well developed commentaries on the Bible passage of the day. He obviously makes this a priority in his life. This reminds me that I need to be vigilant about my own daily walk. Jeff nominated me for this award and I am happy to finally pass this award on to some great bloggers, listed here in no particular order. By award rules, I am supposed to choose 15 blogs to highlight.

So, here goes.

~ If you’re looking for creative, you’ll find this fun:
Marilyn Griffin posts at My First Blog of 2011 and I love the way she writes about her personal life and family and often includes a section about the special needs kids she works with, sprinkling images throughout.

~ Mandi is a crafter and teacher of English as a Second Language (ESI). She currently lives in Korea with her husband, but sounds like they will be in the US soon. She is funny and knows how to crochet. Check out Mandi’s posts at Whimsical Witch.

~ For a great photo blog…well, there are words too, but the photos are amazing…visit Meanwhile, back at the ranch. Jessie writes about returning home to a ranch in western North Dakota and the plans she and her husband have for making a home there. She is a modern day pioneer. You’ll be mesmerized by the scenery.

~ My husband actually found this blog and I always enjoy the read. Jenny is an attorney and writes from Atlanta. She is witty, sharp, a devoted wife and mom…well, I’m sure she’s many things, not least of which is a great blogger. Check out Jenny Mac at Let’s have a cocktail.

~ Kate blogs at Joyous Joys. She is an optimist and a bright spark of encouragement, celebrating joy where she finds it as she experiences life in New York.

~ For a fun pet blog, written from pet perspective, visit Rumpydog. You’ll gain some new insight to human life, and see some cute photos too.

~ I link to this site on my page. If you haven’t stopped by The Burning House you should see what people are posting as the items they would save if their house was on fire. Some choices are puzzling and some are inspiring. I don’t know exactly what I would attempt to save from fire, but I’m sure I would be challenged to fit it into one photo.

~ Amy Lee Bell blogs about homeschooling, relationships, faith, and writing at Full Circle Homeschooling. She writes from the heart. Look her up!

~ Tinkerbelle (no relation to Amy Bell, above, I’m quite sure) is a young writer from the UK who seems to pour humor from her keyboard. She’s only 25, so not sure what drew her to my blog. I found her site because she came across mine. I like her self-deprecating style and the window into a completely.different.life.

~ Stop by An attempt at humor for some laugh out loud reading. Some people got an extra funny bone or three in their makeup, and this blogger is one of those lucky writers. She was Freshly Pressed a few months ago, see this for a little relief when it comes to stepping on the scales.

~ Melody Godfred is an attorney and professional writer using her blog to generate work and to post about great writing everywhere. You might find a use for her services, here.

~ I found this site through Freshly Pressed, and have gone to it for writing ideas and guidance. This blog is maintained by a group of writers, so you get a different flavor/voice depending on who is writing on a given day. I think it’s a great resource, and of course, free!

~ Ok, you know I can’t pass up the opportunity to include a recipe blog! Tina Butler shares down home Southern goodness at Mommy’s Kitchen. A mom of three, she posts family and budget friendly recipes with an eye to tradition and comfort. Yum, yum!

~ For adventure, look no further than Lesley Carter. This amazing woman has traveled and experienced all sorts of adventures of a lifetime. You can find inspiration for a fantasy trip and check out her bucket list (I call this a life list!)

~ For a really different reading experience, visit Cider Press. There are some interesting images on this site. I have to admit, some of the writing goes right over my head. Maybe that’s a function of the fact that a lot of my time to read blogs comes at the end of my work day. But you’ll find some thought-provoking entries for sure.

Third in my list of duties for receiving this award is to share seven things about myself…I can’t recall on the spot what I may have revealed along the way as I’ve blogged the past year…so of any of this is a repeat…well, I’ve been known to repeat myself on occasion!

~ In random order…

1. I’m hopelessly sentimental about children, holidays, pets and memories.

2. I’m learning to be unsentimental about stuff.

3. I spent part of my childhood in India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, where my parents were engaged in mission work.

4. I spent two years living in the Arctic of Alaska. Great people, very harsh climate!

5. I used to hand smock for my children, probably the most creative thing I’ve ever done. I am not really artistic by nature…my brother got those genes.

6. I love to cook but don’t really follow recipes except when I bake. Baking requires measuring, in my experience!

7. I’m an accidental adventurer, living in Alaska because I was in quest of an empty nest adventure. But I’m finding ways to make it work for me!

So there you go! Happy reading and exploring, and I’ll be back soon with more great blog picks. I have two more award posts I’m due to write!

Things I’ve learned

In the past few months, I’ve learned (or re-learned):

~ I’m not too old to be a risk-taker!

~ I have no interest in creating cake pops.

~ I’m a writer!

~ I like chalk board paint on lots of surfaces.

~ I am not into re-purposing T shirts for other garments or crafts.

~ I have a limited tolerance for drama.

~ I’m really good at recognizing a great idea and copying it.

~ I don’t have a big ego, I like to share credit.

~ I’m a mentor in the right settings.

~ Green onions really do grow when you put them root down in a glass of water. Who knew?!

~ I’m always on the hunt for the perfect brownie and the perfect bread recipe.

~ Never write the end of the story in your head before the real story ends…you never know how things will turn out, and frequently the real story will be very different from the version you thought was unfolding.

~ True grace is unfailing and doesn’t ask to be repaid.

~ You can’t have too much shrimp in your freezer!

~ Books that spoke to you once will speak to you again. Reread and see what new things you learn.

~ When you know you have freely chosen, you don’t resent or regret the work it takes to make your choice work out.

~ Doing the right thing reinforces every other right choice you make.

~ Love means saying you’re sorry whenever you need to say the words.

~ I am stronger than I see myself.

~ Winston said it best: Never give up!

A movie moment from real life

My husband loves the little guy movies, the ones about the underdog who beats the odds, those feel good stories that warm the heart. Sometimes the inspiration is a real person, an everyday guy or girl who reminds us that impossible things do happen. I’m betting this is a story we’ll see on the big screen soon.

Sometimes the hero is hiding right in front of our eyes. Enjoy!